The Washington Football Team has seven defensive players on its practice squad. Four are defensive linemen who have never played for the team. The others are a linebacker and two defensive backs, all of whom saw significant playing time last season.
William Bradley-King (Edge): He was the only 2021 draft pick not to make the roster, but Bradley-King was fighting a numbers game. He may need an injury to prove what he can do at the NFL level, but the team clearly is interested in his development. There still is no sure thing behind Chase Young and Montez Sweat, so WBK will probably get his chance one day.
Bunmi Rotimi (Edge): Rotimi made some good plays in the pre-season. And he made some bad plays in the pre-season. Against New England, he sacked Mac Jones early, then got blown up on Rhamondre Stevenson long touchdown run late. Rotimi has talent, but he is currently buried on the depth chart. The fact that the Football Team kept him around shows how much they like him, but it’s a very steep climb.
Daniel Wise (Interior): I like Wise. He plays with good quickness on the inside, and enough strength to hold his own. As with the edge players, his biggest problem is that there are currently five players ahead of him on the active roster. Even if one or two of the vets leave, young players like Tim Settle and David Bada are going to get the first shot at filling in. I think Wise has a future in the NFL. But maybe not in DC.
Gabe Wright (Interior): Wright is more of a classic interior lineman. He is bigger and stronger than Wise, and not as quick or agile. Whereas Wise strikes me as a developmental player, Wright would seem to be under contract to provide depth. He is a sturdy veteran and if the interior of the line is hit by multiple injuries, he could step up in an emergency.
Jordan Kunaszyk (linebacker): Kunaszyk is a quality special teams player who could probably play defense if necessary. The Washington Football Team has already elevated two linebackers who were not on the original 53-man roster – David Mayo and Jared Norris. Norris is very similar to Kunaszyk.
Both are former Carolina Panthers who excel on teams. Norris appears to be a more reliable linebacker which may be why he is on the WFT roster and Kunaszyk isn’t. Kunaszyk played last year and would appear to be the first man up if a linebacker goes down, or is simply ineffective. But early formations suggest that the Washington Football Team is more apt to play five-man fronts and six-man secondaries, which reduces the need for linebackers.
Danny Johnson (Cornerback): I’ve always thought of Johnson as a serviceable backup corner, but his real value in recent years has been as a kick returner and special teams gunner. With DeAndre Carter now here – and with Jaret Patterson able to back him up – Johnson’s value is greatly diminished. He is a good veteran presence, but I don’t expect to see him up unless there are multiple injuries to the defensive backfield and special teams.
Jeremy Reaves (Defensive Back): On the other hand, I fully expect to see Reaves playing for the Washington Football Team before the season is over. I’m still not really sure why Troy Apke beat Reaves out for the final DB spot. Apke is faster. But Reaves has produced at safety, and has been acceptable at corner when called upon.
Apke may offer slightly more upside on kick coverage, but the gap is small. In one of the Pro Football Focus quirks that comes up every season, Jeremy Reaves graded out as the fourth-best safety in the entire NFL last year. No one who watches a lot of football would agree with that rating, but it does suggest that this is a quality guy who has stepped up every time he has been asked to. I expect him to be on the field in some key moments for the team this season.
That’s it as of now. It is a constantly evolving group of players. Injuries, both in Washington and across the league, will impact who stays and who goes, and who gets called up to Show. At least for now, these 16 men are keeping their dreams alive, and that’s not a bad place to be.